Roughly 100 protesters representing various immigrant organizations rallied in midtown Manhattan on Monday as the United Nations General Assembly convened for its annual meeting. Their goal: to put pressure on the Trump administration to extend a program that grants temporary relief from deportation to immigrants from 10 war-torn or crisis-torn countries.
Close to 450,000 immigrants living and working under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program are at risk of losing their status as early as November.
The crowd gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on East 47th Street behind blue police barriers, chanting and shouting. Some used bullhorns. They said they hoped their messages would reach President Trump, in town to address the General Assembly for the first time. The New York Immigration Coalition led the protest and brought together organizations such as the Arab American Association of New York; the MinKwon Center for Community Action, a nonprofit that serves Korean Americans; the Sanctuary Church Task Force, a coalition of Korean churches that provides services for undocumented immigrants; and Make the Road New York, which focuses on immigrant rights for Latinos.
“I want to make all of the UN aware of TPS and the implications that non-renewal of TPS will leave on all countries, not just the United States,” said Gaby Andrade, a member of Make the Road New York. The organization is based in Long Island, where a large population of Central American TPS recipients reside.
Walter Barrientos, also an organizer at Make the Road, agreed. “We’re here to say that the community demands that TPS be renewed and that these families have a permanent way of remaining in this country after they fled natural disasters and other political crises.”
The protest occurred amid ongoing immigration policy debates, including President Trump’s recent repeal of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which will affect nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. If Congress does not pass legislation within the next six months that protects DACA recipients, they could face deportation in March. Some protesters on Monday rallied to DACA’s defense, too.
And many protesters said they are afraid that the TPS program is vulnerable to a similar fate.
Protections for immigrants from Sudan and South Sudan, countries that received TPS status in 2013 and 2016 respectively, will be the first to expire, followed by designees from Nicaragua, Haití, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, starting in January.
Though Haiti, still recovering from its devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010, was granted a six-month extension by the administration in July, the protesters on Monday said they were not counting on an additional extension.
Narbada Chhetri, an organizer for Nepali human rights organization Adhikaar, noted that 8,950 TPS recipients are from Nepal. “It covered our temporary status after the earthquake,” she said, referring to the severe quake that struck Nepal in 2015. Chhetri also expressed a sense of fear and uncertainty within her community should Nepal be removed from TPS protections next year. “It is not only for our benefit but for the American government, as TPS lets [Nepalis] work and file taxes, and it helps the U.S. economy.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat whose district covers Queens, attended the protest in support of TPS. “We’d like to see this extended. The decision is up to the executive completely,” she said, referring to President Trump.
“We’ve protested during all presidential administrations – not just the Trump Administration,” said José Lopez, director of organizing for Make the Road New York. “Immigrants are workers, doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. Immigrants contribute to the economy and pay taxes. There is a role for them.”
Reporting by: Madeleine Ayer, Kelsie Blazier, Krista Bryant, Rahim Chagani, Sherrell Dorsey, Vildana Hajric, Angelica Hill, Aaron Leibowitz, Sana Malik, William McCollister, Katherine Moon, Jordan Obey, Ashley Okwuosa, Alena Saunders, Shreya Vaidyanathan, and Marrian Zhou.